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Remembering a pioneer

I was sad to see where the first “man on the moon,” Neil Armstrong had died.

For any advocate of space flight, Armstrong was a hero, a hero to anyone who believed that a man’s reach should exceed his grasp.

It was Sunday afternoon, July 20, 1969, when Apollo 11 landed on the moon, and it was later that evening when the hatch opened, and Armstrong climbed down the ladder, took those famous steps, uttering the now famous phrase, “One small step for man…”

Much like the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941 and the Kennedy assassination on Nov. 23, 1963, most everyone of my generation can remember where he or she was.

My family was visiting a relative, and we all gathered around the television set to watch the landing, the tension building until Armstrong’s fateful words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here, the Eagle has landed.”

The sense of relief, followed by an immense feeling of national pride permeated that room as well as the entire country, with a feeling of accomplishment spreading around the world.

I truly feel the entire planet was united as never before at that moment of celebration recalling the multitudes of faces glued to their television sets at the same time.

Armstrong was a humble man and a humble hero, someone who reportedly did not grant a lot of interviews in his remaining time on earth, someone who wanted to deflect praise to his fellow astronauts, Mike Collins and “Buzz” Aldrin.

History has a way of putting the right person in the right place at the right time.

Remember the History Channel series, “Man, Moment, Machine,” and you get my drift.

Armstrong, the lunar landing and the Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) became a tool to bring this earth together as one, if not but for a few minutes or hours.

An entire series of space missions, encompassing the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo projects had one goal in mind, to put a man on the moon by the end of the decade of the 1960s, a challenge issued by President John F. Kennedy in a speech to a joint session of Congress in May of 1961.

It was fascinating, encouraging and uplifting to watch a nation strive to reach that goal amid a tumultuous decade marked by war and assassination.

That focus, drive and energy toward a common goal is something we seem to lack as a nation with all the divisiveness we face currently.

Armstrong’s passing, though sad, reminds us of how the human spirit can and does triumph against all odds if we only believe it can.